From Paul Ryan’s speech last night at the Jack Kemp Foundation Dinner (via Politico):
Poverty rates are the highest in a generation. Of the millions of children born into hardship, fewer and fewer are able to escape it. And some never learn to dream at all, which is a worse tragedy. When 40 percent of all children born into the lowest income quintile never rise above it, what does it say about our country?
To me, it says our economy is failing to provide basic security, much less rising wages. It says our schools are failing to provide a path out of poverty. And it says that our families and communities are breaking down where they are needed most –in those homes and neighborhoods where even a mighty government cannot match the power of one caring soul helping another.
At a time of great consequence, the American people have again chosen divided government. And it’s up to us to make it work. We’ve got to set aside partisan considerations in favor of one overriding concern: How can we work together to repair the economy? How can we provide real security and upward mobility for all Americans – especially those in need?
Ryan also talked about the need to purge our culture of the notion that more money spent equals greater compassion:
Here’s the problem: We haven’t applied the welfare-reform mindset with equal vigor across the spectrum of anti-poverty programs. In most cases, we’re still trying to measure compassion by how much we spend – not by how many people we help.
Just last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested programs came to more than one trillion dollars. What does that mean in practical terms? For that amount of money, you could give every poor American a check for $22,000. Instead, we spent all that money trying to fight poverty through government programs.
What do we have to show for it? Today, 46 million people are living in poverty. During the last four years, the number of people on food stamps has gone up by 15 million. Medicaid is reaching a breaking point. And one out of every four students fails to earn a high-school diploma. In our major cities, half of our kids don’t graduate. Half.
When Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1964, he predicted we would eliminate poverty in 35 to 50 years. Here we are, 48 years later, and poverty is winning. We deserve better.